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Financial Dictionary - Key Terms

Key Terms – Financial Dictionary

1)    Anti Money Laundering:

A set of procedures, laws or regulations designed to stop the practice of generating income through illegal actions. In most cases money launderers hide their actions through a series of steps that make it look like money coming from illegal or unethical sources was earned legitimately.  

Though anti-money-laundering laws cover only a relatively limited number of transactions and criminal behaviors, their implications are extremely far reaching. An example of AML regulations are those that require institutions issuing credit or allowing customers open accounts to complete a number of due-diligence procedures to ensure that these institutions are not aiding in money-laundering activities. The onus to perform these procedures is on the institutions, not the criminals or the government.

2)    Bank Guarantee:

A guarantee from a lending institution ensuring that the liabilities of a debtor will be met. In other words, if the debtor fails to settle a debt, the bank will cover it.

A bank guarantee enables the customer (debtor) to acquire goods, buy equipment, or draw down loans, and thereby expand business activity.

3)    Letter of Credit:

A letter from a bank guaranteeing that a buyer's payment to a seller will be received on time and for the correct amount. In the event that the buyer is unable to make payment on the purchase, the bank will be required to cover the full or remaining amount of the purchase.

Letters of credit are often used in international transactions to ensure that payment will be received. Due to the nature of international dealings including factors such as distance, differing laws in each country and difficulty in knowing each party personally, the use of letters of credit has become a very important aspect of international trade. The bank also acts on behalf of the buyer (holder of letter of credit) by ensuring that the supplier will not be paid until the bank receives a confirmation that the goods have been shipped. 

4)    Prime Lending Rate:

The interest rate that commercial banks charge their most credit-worthy customers. Generally a bank's best customers consist of large corporations. The prime interest rate, or prime lending rate, is largely determined by the federal funds rate, which is the overnight rate which banks lend to one another. The prime rate is also important for retail customers, as the prime rate directly affects the lending rates which are available for mortgage, small business and personal loans.
Default risk is the main determiner of the interest rate a bank will charge a borrower. Because a bank's best customers have little chance of defaulting, the bank can charge them a rate that is lower than the rate that would be charged to a customer who has a higher likelihood of defaulting on a loan.

5)    Cash Reserve Ratio:

The portion (expressed as a percent) of depositors' balances banks must have on hand as cash. This is a requirement determined by the country's central bank, which in the U.S. is the Federal Reserve. The reserve ratio affects the money supply in a country.

This is also referred to as the "cash reserve ratio" (CRR).

For example, if the reserve ratio in the U.S. is determined by the Fed to be 11%, this means all banks must have 11% of their depositers' money on reserve in the bank. So, if a bank has deposits of $1 billion, it is required to have $110 million on reserve.

6)    Contingent Liabilities:

Contingent liabilities are liabilities that may or may not be incurred by an entity depending on the outcome of a future event such as a court case. These liabilities are recorded in a company's accounts and shown in the balance sheet when both probable and reasonably estimable. A footnote to the balance sheet describes the nature and extent of the contingent liabilities. The likelihood of loss is described as probable, reasonably possible, or remote. The ability to estimate a loss is described as known, reasonably estimable, or not reasonably estimable.

  1. The possibility of an obligation to pay certain sums dependent on future events.

2. Defined obligations by a company that must be met, but the probability of payment is minimal.

A good example of a contingent liability would be an outstanding lawsuit.

7)    Statutory Liquidity Ratio (SLR):
Statutory liquidity ratio is the amount of liquid assets such as precious metals (Gold) or other approved securities, that a financial institution must maintain as reserves other than the cash . The statutory liquidity ratio is a term most commonly used in India.
The objectives of SLR are to restrict the expansion of bank credit.
  1. To augment the investment of the banks in government securities.
  2. To ensure solvency of banks. A reduction of SLR rates looks eminent to support the credit growth in India.
The SLR is commonly used to contain inflation and fuel growth, by increasing or decreasing it respectively. This counter acts by decreasing or increasing the money supply in the system respectively. Indian banks’ holdings of government securities (Government securities) are now close to the statutory minimum that banks are required to hold to comply with existing regulation. When measured in rupees, such holdings decreased for the first time in a little less than 40 years (since the nationalization of banks in 1969) in 2005–06.

8)    Demat Account:
The term "demat", in India, refers to a dematerialised account for individual Indian citizens to trade in listed stocks or debentures in electronic form rather than paper, as required for investors by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI). In a demat account, shares and securities are held electronically instead of the investor taking physical possession of certificates. A demat account is opened by the investor while registering with an investment broker (or sub-broker). The demat account number is quoted for all transactions to enable electronic settlements of trades to take place.
Access to the demat account requires an internet password and a transaction password. Transfers or purchases of securities can then be initiated. Purchases and sales of securities on the demat account are automatically made once transactions are confirmed and completed.

9)    Hedge Fund:

An aggressively managed portfolio of investments that uses advanced investment strategies such as leveraged, long, short and derivative positions in both domestic and international markets with the goal of generating high returns (either in an absolute sense or over a specified market benchmark).

Legally, hedge funds are most often set up as private investment partnerships that are open to a limited number of investors and require a very large initial minimum investment. Investments in hedge funds are illiquid as they often require investors keep their money in the fund for at least one year

For the most part, hedge funds (unlike mutual funds) are unregulated because they cater to sophisticated investors. In the U.S., laws require that the majority of investors in the fund be accredited. That is, they must earn a minimum amount of money annually and have a net worth of more than $1 million, along with a significant amount of investment knowledge. You can think of hedge funds as mutual funds for the super rich. They are similar to mutual funds in that investments are pooled and professionally managed, but differ in that the fund has far more flexibility in its investment strategies.

It is important to note that hedging is actually the practice of attempting to reduce risk, but the goal of most hedge funds is to maximize return on investment. The name is mostly historical, as the first hedge funds tried to hedge against the downside risk of a bear market by shorting the market (mutual funds generally can't enter into short positions as one of their primary goals). Nowadays, hedge funds use dozens of different strategies, so it isn't accurate to say that hedge funds just "hedge risk". In fact, because hedge fund managers make speculative investments, these funds can carry more risk than the overall market.

10) LIBOR (London Interbank offered rate):

An interest rate at which banks can borrow funds, in marketable size, from other banks in the London interbank market. The LIBOR is fixed on a daily basis by the British Bankers' Association. The LIBOR is derived from a filtered average of the world's most creditworthy banks' interbank deposit rates for larger loans with maturities between overnight and one full year.

The LIBOR is the world's most widely used benchmark for short-term interest rates. It's important because it is the rate at which the world's most preferred borrowers are able to borrow money. It is also the rate upon which rates for less preferred borrowers are based. For example, a multinational corporation with a very good credit rating may be able to borrow money for one year at LIBOR plus four or five points.

Countries that rely on the LIBOR for a reference rate include the United States, Canada, Switzerland and the U.K.

11) MIBOR (Mumbai Interbank offered rate):

The interest rate at which banks can borrow funds, in marketable size, from other banks in the Indian interbank market. The Mumbai Interbank Offered Rate (MIBOR) is calculated everyday by the National Stock Exchange of India (NSEIL) as a weighted average of lending rates of a group of banks, on funds lent to first-class borrowers.

The MIBOR was launched on June 15, 1998 by the Committee for the Development of the Debt Market, as an overnight rate. The NSEIL launched the 14-day MIBOR on November 10, 1998, and the one month and three month MIBORs on December 1, 1998. Since the launch, MIBOR rates have been used as benchmark rates for the majority of money market deals made in India.

12) RTGS (Real Time Gross Settlement):

The continuous settlement of payments on an individual order basis without netting debits with credits across the books of a central bank.

Basically, this is a system for large-value interbank funds transfers. This system lessens settlement risk because interbank settlement happens throughout the day, rather than just at the end of the day.

RTGS is a large value (minimum value of transaction should be Rs 1,00,000) funds transfer system whereby financial intermediaries can settle interbank transfers for their own account as well as for their customers. The system effects final settlement of interbank funds transfers on a continuous, transaction-by-transaction basis throughout the processing day. Customers can access the RTGS facility between 9 am to 4:30 pm on weekdays and 9 am to 1:30 pm on Saturdays. However, the timings that the banks follow may vary depending on the bank branch.

13) NEFT (National electronic fund transfer):
The national electronic fund transfer (NEFT) system is a nation-wide system that facilitates individuals, firms and corporates to electronically transfer funds from any bank branch to any individual, firm or corporate having an account with any other bank branch in the country. For being part of the NEFT funds transfer network, a bank branch has to be NEFT-enabled. As at end-January 2011, 74,680 branches / offices of 101 banks in the country (out of around 82,400 bank branches) are NEFT-enabled. Steps are being taken to further widen the coverage both in terms of banks and branches / offices.
IFSC or Indian financial system code is required to perform a transaction using NEFT or RTGS. IFSC code identifies a specific branch of a bank. IFSC code can be found out on RBI website. These codes are also known from your bank branch, and it is best to confirm the IFSC code, before going for any transaction.

14) KYC Norms (know your customer):
Know Your Customer (KYC) refers to both:
  • The activities of customer due diligence that financial institutions and other regulated companies must perform to identify their clients and ascertain relevant information pertinent to doing financial business with them
  • And the bank regulation which governs those activities
The objective of KYC guidelines is to prevent banks from being used, intentionally or unintentionally, by criminal elements for money laundering activities. KYC procedures also enable banks to know/understand their customers and their financial dealings better which in turn help them manage their risks prudently. Banks should frame their KYC policies incorporating the following four key elements:
- Customer Acceptance Policy;
- Customer Identification Procedures;
- Monitoring of Transactions; and
- Risk management.
For the purpose of KYC policy, a ‘Customer’ may be defined as :
- a person or entity that maintains an account and/or has a business relationship with the bank;
- one on whose behalf the account is maintained (i.e. the beneficial owner);
- beneficiaries of transactions conducted by professional intermediaries, such as Stock Brokers,  Chartered Accountants, Solicitors etc. as permitted under the law, and
- any person or entity connected with a financial transaction which can pose significant reputational or other risks to the bank.
15) Leverage:
1.    The use of various financial instruments or borrowed capital, such as margin, to increase the potential return of an investment.
2.    The amount of debt used to finance a firm's assets. A firm with significantly more debt than equity is considered to be highly leveraged.

Leverage is most commonly used in real estate transactions through the use of mortgages to purchase a home.

Leverage can be created through options, futures, margin and other financial instruments. For example, say you have $1,000 to invest. This amount could be invested in 10 shares of Microsoft stock, but to increase leverage, you could invest the $1,000 in five options contracts. You would then control 500 shares instead of just 10.

Most companies use debt to finance operations. By doing so, a company increases its leverage because it can invest in business operations without increasing its equity. For example, if a company formed with an investment of $5 million from investors, the equity in the company is $5 million - this is the money the company uses to operate. If the company uses debt financing by borrowing $20 million, the company now has $25 million to invest in business operations and more opportunity to increase value for shareholders.

Leverage helps both the investor and the firm to invest or operate. However, it comes with greater risk. If an investor uses leverage to make an investment and the investment moves against the investor, his or her loss is much greater than it would've been if the investment had not been leveraged - leverage magnifies both gains and losses. In the business world, a company can use leverage to try to generate shareholder wealth, but if it fails to do so, the interest expense and credit risk of default destroys shareholder value.

16) DSCR (Debt Service Coverage Ratio):
In corporate finance, it is the amount of cash flow available to meet annual interest and principal payments on debt, including sinking fund payments.

In government finance, it is the amount of export earnings needed to meet annual interest and principal payments on a country's external debts.

In personal finance, it is a ratio used by bank loan officers in determining income property loans. This ratio should ideally be over 1. That would mean the property is generating enough income to pay its debt obligations.

In general, it is calculated by:
Debt-Service Coverage Ratio (DSCR)

A DSCR of less than 1 would mean a negative cash flow. A DSCR of less than 1, say .95, would mean that there is only enough net operating income to cover 95% of annual debt payments. For example, in the context of personal finance, this would mean that the borrower would have to delve into his or her personal funds every month to keep the project afloat. Generally, lenders frown on a negative cash flow, but some allow it if the borrower has strong outside income.

17) NPA (Non Performing Asset):

A classification used by financial institutions that refer to loans that are in jeopardy of default. Once the borrower has failed to make interest or principal payments for 90 days the loan is considered to be a non-performing asset.

Non-performing assets are problematic for financial institutions since they depend on interest payments for income. Troublesome pressure from the economy can lead to a sharp increase in non-performing loans and often results in massive write-downs.

18) Hypothecation:

When a person pledges a mortgage as collateral for a loan, it refers to the right that a banker has to liquidate goods if you fail to service a loan.  The term also applies to securities in a margin account used as collateral for money loaned from a brokerage.

You are said to "hypothecate" the mortgage when you pledge it as collateral for a loan.

19) Repo & Reverse REPO:

A form of short-term borrowing for dealers in government securities. The dealer sells the government securities to investors, usually on an overnight basis, and buys them back the following day.

For the party selling the security (and agreeing to repurchase it in the future) it is a repo; for the party on the other end of the transaction, (buying the security and agreeing to sell in the future) it is a reverse repurchase agreement.

Repos are classified as a money-market instrument. They are usually used to raise short-term capital.

20) Monetary Policy:

The actions of a central bank, currency board or other regulatory committee that determine the size and rate of growth of the money supply, which in turn affects interest rates. Monetary policy is maintained through actions such as increasing the interest rate, or changing the amount of money banks need to keep in the vault (bank reserves).

In the United States, the Federal Reserve is in charge of monetary policy. Monetary policy is one of the ways that the U.S. government attempts to control the economy. If the money supply grows too fast, the rate of inflation will increase; if the growth of the money supply is slowed too much, then economic growth may also slow. In general, the U.S. sets inflation targets that are meant to maintain a steady inflation of 2% to 3%.

21) Fiscal Policy:

Government spending policies that influence macroeconomic conditions. These policies affect tax rates, interest rates and government spending, in an effort to control the economy.

Since the 1980s, most western countries have held a "tight" policy, limiting public expenditure.

22) CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate):

The year-over-year growth rate of an investment over a specified period of time.

The compound annual growth rate is calculated by taking the nth root of the total percentage growth rate, where n is the number of years in the period being considered.

This can be written as follows:
Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR)

CAGR isn't the actual return in reality. It's an imaginary number that describes the rate at which an investment would have grown if it grew at a steady rate. You can think of CAGR as a way to smooth out the returns.

Don't worry if this concept is still fuzzy to you - CAGR is one of those terms best defined by example. Suppose you invested $10,000 in a portfolio on Jan 1, 2005. Let's say by Jan 1, 2006, your portfolio had grown to $13,000, then $14,000 by 2007, and finally ended up at $19,500 by 2008.

Your CAGR would be the ratio of your ending value to beginning value ($19,500 / $10,000 = 1.95) raised to the power of 1/3 (since 1/# of years = 1/3), then subtracting 1 from the resulting number:

1.95 raised to 1/3 power = 1.2493. (This could be written as 1.95^0.3333).
1.2493 - 1 = 0.2493
Another way of writing 0.2493 is 24.93%.

Thus, your CAGR for your three-year investment is equal to 24.93%, representing the smoothed annualized gain you earned over your investment time horizon.

23) EMI (Equated Monthly Installment):

A fixed payment amount made by a borrower to a lender at a specified date each calendar month. Equated monthly installments are used to pay off both interest and principal each month, so that over a specified number of years, the loan is paid off in full.

With most common types of loans, such as real estate mortgages, the borrower makes fixed periodic payments to the lender over the course of several years with the goal of retiring the loan. EMIs differ from variable payment plans, in which the borrower is able to pay higher payment amounts at his or her discretion. In EMI plans, borrowers are usually only allowed one fixed payment amount each month.

The benefit of an EMI for borrowers is that they know precisely how much money they will need to pay toward their loan each month, making the personal budgeting process easier

24) Diversification:

A risk management technique that mixes a wide variety of investments within a portfolio. The rationale behind this technique contends that a portfolio of different kinds of investments will, on average, yield higher returns and pose a lower risk than any individual investment found within the portfolio.

Diversification strives to smooth out unsystematic risk events in a portfolio so that the positive performance of some investments will neutralize the negative performance of others. Therefore, the benefits of diversification will hold only if the securities in the portfolio are not perfectly correlated.

Studies and mathematical models have shown that maintaining a well-diversified portfolio of 25 to 30 stocks will yield the most cost-effective level of risk reduction. Investing in more securities will still yield further diversification benefits, albeit at a drastically smaller rate.

Further diversification benefits can be gained by investing in foreign securities because they tend be less closely correlated with domestic investments. For example, an economic downturn in the U.S. economy may not affect Japan's economy in the same way; therefore, having Japanese investments would allow an investor to have a small cushion of protection against losses due to an American economic downturn.

Most non-institutional investors have a limited investment budget, and may find it difficult to create an adequately diversified portfolio. This fact alone can explain why mutual funds have been increasing in popularity. Buying shares in a mutual fund can provide investors with an inexpensive source of diversification.

25) Insurance:

A contract (policy) in which an individual or entity receives financial protection or reimbursement against losses from an insurance company. The company pools clients' risks to make payments more affordable for the insured.

When shopping around for an insurance policy, look for the best priced package that is right for you - prices can vary from one insurance company to the next. And make sure you know what you want. Some individuals, for example, prefer 24-hour claims service or face-to-face contact with an insurance representative. Also consider the claims settlement process, the amount of the deductible and the extent of the replacement coverage. Insurance companies and the policies they offer are not all the same, so think about more than just the price.

26) Hedging:

Making an investment to reduce the risk of adverse price movements in an asset. Normally, a hedge consists of taking an offsetting position in a related security, such as a futures contract.
An example of a hedge would be if you owned a stock, then sold a futures contract stating that you will sell your stock at a set price, therefore avoiding market fluctuations.

Investors use this strategy when they are unsure of what the market will do. A perfect hedge reduces your risk to nothing (except for the cost of the hedge).

27) IPO (Initial Public offering):

The first sale of stock by a private company to the public. IPOs are often issued by smaller, younger companies seeking the capital to expand, but can also be done by large privately owned companies looking to become publicly traded.

In an IPO, the issuer obtains the assistance of an underwriting firm, which helps it determine what type of security to issue (common or preferred), the best offering price and the time to bring it to market.

Also referred to as a "public offering"

IPOs can be a risky investment. For the individual investor, it is tough to predict what the stock will do on its initial day of trading and in the near future because there is often little historical data with which to analyze the company. Also, most IPOs are of companies going through a transitory growth period, which are subject to additional uncertainty regarding their future values.

28) FPO (Follow on public offering):
An issuing of shares to investors by a public company that is already listed on an exchange. An FPO is essentially a stock issue of supplementary shares made by a company that is already publicly listed and has gone through the IPO process.

FPOs are popular methods for companies to raise additional equity capital in the capital markets through a stock issue. Public companies can also take advantage of an FPO issuing an offer for sale to investors, which are made through an offer document. FPOs should not be confused with IPOs, as IPOs are the initial public offering of equity to the public while FPOs are supplementary issues made after a company has been established on an exchange.

29) NCDEX (national commodities and derivative exchange):

India's largest and most recognized commodities exchange, which was established in 2003. The exchange was founded by some of India's leading financial institutions such as ICICI Bank Limited, the National Stock Exchange of India and the National Bank for Agricultural and Rural Development, among others.

The exchange is located in Mumbai, but has offices across the country to facilitate trade. Trading is done on 45 commodities that are integral to India's economy. These include gold, silver, Brent Crude oil, and rice, along with other agricultural products and base metals.

30) MCX (Multi Commodity Exchange):

Multi Commodity Exchange (MCX) is an independent commodity exchange based in India. It was established in 2003 and is based in Mumbai.

MCX offers futures trading in bullion, ferrous and non-ferrous metals, energy, and a number of agricultural commodities (mentha oil, cardamom, potatoes, palm oil and others).

31) Merchant Bank:

A bank that deals mostly in (but is not limited to) international finance, long-term loans for companies and underwriting. Merchant banks do not provide regular banking services to the general public.

Their knowledge in international finances make merchant banks specialists in dealing with multinational corporations.

32) Floating interest rate:

An interest rate that is allowed to move up and down with the rest of the market or along with an index. This contrasts with a fixed interest rate, in which the interest rate of a debt obligation stays constant for the duration of the agreement.

A floating interest rate can also be referred to as a variable interest rate because it can vary over the duration of the debt obligation.

For example, residential mortgages can be obtained with a fixed interest rate, which is static and can't change for the duration of the mortgage agreement, or with a floating interest rate, which changes periodically with the market. In the case of floating interest rates in mortgages, and most other floating rate agreements, the prime lending rate is used as a basis for the floating rate, with the agreement stating that the interest rate charged to the borrower is the prime interest rate plus a certain spread.

33) Fixed Interest Rate:

A loan or mortgage with an interest rate that will remain at a predetermined rate for the entire term of the loan.

Also known as a "fixed-rate mortgage".

An estimated 70-80% of all home mortgages are fixed-rate.

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